School Board Allows Girl to Return to Classes
FAIRBORN, Ohio (AP) _ The four-month suspension for a 14-year-old girl who gave a classmate a Midol pill was cut to 13 days on the same day she filed a lawsuit contending racial discrimination.
A smiling Kimberly Smartt, clutching a handful of red, white, blue and yellow balloons, returned to Baker Junior High School this morning in a white stretch limousine, accompanied by her mother and attorney.
``I feel really happy that I’m coming back,″ she said.
Students arriving in buses cheered the eighth-grader and classmates, several of whom rode with her in the limo, crowded around her as she entered the school about 10 miles northeast of Dayton.
Kimberly claimed in her lawsuit Monday that because she is black she got a tougher punishment than her classmate, who is white. The school says the punishment was different because distributing a drug is worse than possessing it.
The classmate, 13-year-old Erica Taylor, was suspended for nine days. But after agreeing to undergo drug counseling, her records were changed to show that she was suspended only three days.
Kimberly had been suspended until February for giving Erica a Midol. She served a 10-day suspension before receiving a letter informing her that she had been kicked out until Feb. 12. A suspension longer than 10 days is technically considered an expulsion under Ohio law.
After hearing her appeal, the board on Monday night reaffirmed the 10-day suspension but trimmed the longer punishment to three days, meaning Kimberly could return to classes today after being kept out of school for 13 days.
Her record will reflect only the 10-day suspension.
The girl’s lawyer, Carl Lewis, said some white students in the school district have not been expelled for distributing drugs.
``You should not treat students this way for something as minute and as small as a Midol,″ Lewis said.
Midol is a nonprescription drug used to relieve cramps, headaches and other menstrual symptoms. It contains acetaminophen, a common painkiller, and caffeine.
The school district’s drug policy does not distinguish between legal and illegal drugs, or prescription and nonprescription drugs. Students who do not feel well are supposed to go to the school nurse.
The lawsuit, filed against Fairborn Superintendent Steve Clifton, the Fairborn Board of Education and school Principal Edward Gibbons, also seeks unspecified damages.
Clifton and Gibbons did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Lewis said he expected the lawsuit to continue despite the school board’s action.
At a hearing this morning, U.S. District Judge Walter Rice denied Lewis’ request to bar the school from requiring Smartt to pay for the required drug counseling.
He also rejected Lewis’ request that he forbid school officials from speaking publicly about the fact Smartt was disciplined for giving a drug to another student. A gag order would deny the public’s right to understand why the school took action, the judge said.
Kimberly went to the school clinic Sept. 6 complaining of pain and asked for a Midol, the lawsuit says. The nurse said she would have to get consent from her mother.
Her mother, Angela Smartt, said she had previously signed a consent form and returned it to the school to be placed on file.
When the girl’s pain intensified, the lawsuit said, she took two Midol pills out of the clinic without the nurse’s knowledge.
Kimberly has said she swallowed one of the pills and gave the other to Erica, who asked her for it. Erica said she didn’t swallow the pill.